Influential. It's a tricky word. Influential on what? My life? My writing? Can I just skip the influential part and write about my favourites? The books I read first? How can I tell what books shaped my life and which ones were just fluff?It's a hard question. Really hard. So at a guess, I'd say that my answer is far from accurate. Here's to trying to answer anyway.
My mom wouldn't read it. She started and couldn't finish. It was too awful. But I loved it. It influenced me both as a person and a writer. As a writer because I've always favoured a dark style of writing, and my earliest novel had multiple torture scenes. Buried Alive for Christ gave me plenty if insight into pain, the depravity of the human mind, and fed my imagination for the grimmer aspects of writing. But as a person it fed my desire to be the kind of person willing to suffer that way for another, for Christ, and to this day I still believe the greatest honour in life is to die a martyr, tortured or otherwise.
Part fiction, part history, and part social commentary it follow the life of Nero, and the fall of Rome. It deals extensively with the persecution of the early Christians, and ends with the Apostle Peter's decision to stay in Rome and preach the gospel to those who wanted it least. Unlike so many other novels set in this era it does not romanise or downplay the horrors imposed by Nero on those who claimed Christ. there are no long agonizing moments by characters trying to decide whether to choose Christ and die or renounce him and live. Instead there is the brutality of their deaths, and the disregard with which the Romans viewed it. As a cynical teenager there was little in the way of torture or tragedy that could phase me, and this is one book that no only made me cry--it left me shocked for days. It wasn't the graphic violence, it was the desperate realism with which is was portrayed. Horrifying in all the right ways it also holds out plenty of hope, and the ending pays of satisfactorily.
Anyone who thinks they are a good writer but hasn't read or has no respect for good old Willy Shakes is full of themselves, out of their mind, and dead wrong. William Shakespeare is the Wordsmith of all time, the coiner of words and idioms we use today, second in the English Language only to its forger, William Tyndale. His plots are accused of being cliché, but that's because he's the original archetype. His content may not always be the most uplifting, but his languages is sheer poetry. His ingenuity and grasp of metre and metaphor is without comparison.
Jules Verne is best known for his science fiction, but his tales of adventure and romance are just as good, if not better. The Lighthouse at the End of the World is a thrilling tale of survival, of one man fighting against impossible odds. This is the book that taught me about pirates, and that even "real" men can sometimes cry. And the language of the old translations of Verne is beyond compare. Imitated by a 12-year-old it's laughable, but the deeper understanding of the language is what helped me become a writer today.
Jo March has and always will be a role model for me. I devoured Little Men and Jo's Boys alike, simply because I wanted more of Jo. The story of the March sisters is a timeless tale. Seen objectively some might take issue with the strong tone of morality and those who are of a feminist bent might consider the role models portrayed as too restricting, but if you actually read the book there's none of that there. Describing the story does nothing. Read the book if you haven't. Read it again if you have. And be inspired to do great things.
This is not a list of my favourite books. That list can be found on my personal blog. Most of these books are books I read in my childhood, since that was the time I was most influenced. You'll notice a dearth of contemporary work, and that's because contemporary authors, no matter how great, have got nothing on the great classics. They just don't make them how they used to.
Katie Lynn Daniels is the author of Supervillain of the Day and the Tale of Pirate Shishkabob. She loves pirates, ninjas, outlaws, thieves, and knights in shining armour. She's been homeschooled since the day she was born and runs wild on 54 acres in Kentucky with eight younger brothers and sisters. When she's not writing she's reading, playing harp, singing, composing, milking cows, or trying to hold down a "regular" job. You can follow her on Twitter @danielskatie or stalk her on Facebook as authorkatielynn.